Wool & Whiskey – Ireland Edition, Days 4 to 7

Longueville House, County Cork. Never has a group been so reluctant to leave a place of lodging. The food was wonderful, sitting room homey, ever-present barman in the evenings. Heck, it was grand. But we did have to check out in order to move on…

Luckily, we were easily distracted from our sad departure by arriving at this dramatic location:

That, friends and neighbors, is the Rock of Cashel. We spent a blustery morning atop its handsome self. We had a fantastic tour guide. She told us all kinds of wonderful, interesting and funny things. However, it is now more than a week after our visit and I can’t remember anything of the history she conveyed. Ummmm … it’s an important place??? It’s been continually used by religious and kingly figures??? Frankly, what I recall best about was her saying “Sure you all need a nice hot cuppa tea” and “This is Ireland. We never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

On our way down the hill to find lunch, we came across a little shop that had all kinds of touristy doodads but ALSO wool. Our first unscheduled wool finding.

Much yarn was purchased.

But not by me.

Cold but fully yarn-infused, we arrived at our new digs, Roundwood House. Built in the 18th century, this Irish country house was originally the home of a prominent Quaker family in County Laois.

Yes, you read that correctly. L-a-o-i-s. Guess how you say it. WRONG! It’s pronounced “leesh”. As in dog leash. God help me, words in Ireland are even harder to pronounce than in Iceland.

There are those boots.

Before going out again, we got settled in our rooms. Here’s Kelly, unpacking her stash. When I said yarn was not purchased by me, that meant plenty was purchased by others. Note that this video includes stash purchased from Carol Feller, Hedgehog Fibers, and Vibes &Scribes. Several days of wooly visits still ahead of us…

Will Kelly (and others) make it home with all that stash?!?! Will we need to stop before going to the airport to purchase additional luggage for participants? How many more pieces of luggage are going home than came over with the group? I’m always amazed at just how much yarn can be smashed into a suitcase. And don’t forget, one can always leave clothes, shoes and other items behind in order to make room for purchases. It’s been done many times. In fact, I’ve done it myself!

Our afternoon was spent with Mary Bulfin, aka Wild Food Mary, who led us on a foraging walk around the grounds of Roundwood House. Mushrooms, flowers, berries , herbs, and even weeds… We were treated to a botanical orientation to what lives around us and can be used for food, medicine, dyes, etc

You can find out more about Mary at her website: https://wildfoodmary.com/

Evenings at Roundwood House included an amazing dinner and then knitting in the sitting room. The owners, Hannah and Paddy Flynn, have created a truly welcoming, relaxed setting for visitors. They are the second generation of owner/hoteliers. They live there in the house. The property is listed as a significant historic house and though there has been restoration and upkeep, the family has left the building to reflect its age. Cracks, pictures, uneven pavement and all. Some would find it a bit disconcerting that the building feels so old. But I quite liked it.

The next couple days included visits to sites around County Laois. We were in search of patterns on stone, so visited churches, cemeteries, towns, etc. Despite rain, we tromped around and found great examples for use in a future workshop. We also visited Cushendale Mills, one of the few historic Irish textile mills still in existence. Our day ended in Kilkenny, where we found a place to eat and enjoyed some local music.

Our following days in the area included…

A surprise visit to nearby Mountmellick. Heather had heard of a museum devoted to the embroidery work of the area. What we found was a carefully collected, curated and beautiful collection of the white-on-white work done by the Quaker community there. The extant pieces of textile are on display alongside books, historical accounts and contemporary work done in the same style. The community endeavors to keep the craft alive by offering workshops. I foresee some of us there in the future!

A visit at Leap Castle. (Pronounced “lepp”)

A distillery tour at Kilbeggin. Yum.

A visit to an ancient roadway found (intact) and recovered from a nearby bog. It predates the Romans.

And a walk out at the site of Rathcrogan. Much of the archaeology recovered and preserved is from the Iron Age. There are great ceremonial mounds, earth works and burial sites all over the country. I have to admit, I’m not much of an ancient historian. At present, I’m reading up on “the Celts” and trying to get an understanding of early Irish history.

Let’s just say these sites are really, really, really old and leave it at that. For details, ask Heather!

And another yarn store, The Baldy Sheep, where we met Patricia Cox, owner and knitwear designer. She spent time with us talking about design and pattern and then worked with individuals to come up with their own interpretation (in knitting) of some of the patterns we’ve seen in stone.

A quick stop at St. Mel’s Cathedral, just down the street…

And then we arrived at our next new home, Viewmont House in Longford.

Was the day done yet? No!!! We all went out to find dinner and then gathered at a nearby pub for some dance and a music session.

Tired and happy, we walked back to Viewmont House for a well- deserved sleep.

As always, cheers!

Next up: more tales from the trip. Our merry band of travelers heads off to ford the River Shannon and become experts in Irish crochet.

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